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JoJo Siwa Defends 'Karma' Song, Explains How It Became Hers

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JoJo Siwa Defends 'Karma' Song, Explains How It Became Hers

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Ethiopian singer Muluken Melesse dies at 73

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Ethiopian singer Muluken Melesse dies at 73

Ethiopian singer Muluken Melesse.

Muluken Melesse Family


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Muluken Melesse Family


Ethiopian singer Muluken Melesse.

Muluken Melesse Family

Renowned Ethiopian singer Muluken Melesse died on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., after a long illness, according to his family. He was 73 years old.

The vocalist rose to fame at a time of enormous political and social unrest in Ethiopia, as the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution gave way to a military dictatorship.

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Muluken’s songs from the 1970s and 80s were filled with love and longing for better times.

“He came through at a time when people were really down,” said Sayem Osman, who has contributed articles about contemporary Ethiopian music to blogs and magazines. “He got to the core of people’s hearts.”

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Muluken was born in the Gojjam province of Northern Ethiopia in 1951.

His mother died when he was young, and so he moved to the capital, Addis Ababa, to live with an uncle. But the arrangement didn’t work out. Muluken wound up in an orphanage, where he studied singing with a visiting musician who taught lessons there.

“And Muluken at that time got the [music] bug,” Sayem said.

Muluken started performing in local clubs in the 1960s when he was barely a teenager, and eventually became a big star. Love songs like “Mewdeden Wededkut” (“I Love Being in Love”), “Hagerwa Wasamegena” (“She’s from Wasamegena”), and “Nanu Nanu Neyi” (“Come Here, Girl”) became hits.

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“He’s the king of the love songs for me,” said Sayem. “It’s all about how you treat a woman, how you see a woman.”

Sayem said Muluken’s popularity had a lot to do with the talented female lyricists he worked with on these songs, including Shewaleul Mengistu and Alem Tsehay Wodajo. “Who else but a woman would know how to be described or how to be looked upon?” said Sayem.

Muluken Melesse Muluken started performing in local clubs in the 1960s when he was barely a teenager.

Muluken Melesse Family

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But it was tough to be an artist in a country under military rule. “There was very heavy, heavy censorship,” Sayem said.

Many musicians left Ethiopia. Muluken stuck around for a while. He converted to Evangelical Christianity. Eventually, in 1984, he moved to the United States and settled in the Washington, D.C., area.

He continued performing groovy love songs for a time, before giving them up entirely in order to focus on his newfound faith.

“And that was it. He was done,” said Sayem. “And he never performed this music ever again.”

Instead, Muluken took to singing gospel songs at church events.

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“He was a very good and sincere person, who loved people and feared God,” said Muluken’s widow, Mulu Kaipagyan, also a devoted Christian, in an online statement shared with NPR.

“YeYesus Wetadernegn” (“I’m Jesus’s Soldier”) — one of many songs Muluken Melesse sang after converting to evangelical christianity.

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Even though Muluken turned his back on secular music during his later years, his early work has continued to influence younger generations of musicians.

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“He became like a conduit into getting even deeper into the traditional music of Ethiopia for me,” said Ethiopian-American singer, songwriter and composer Meklit Hadero.

Muluken Melesse as a young vocalist.

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Muluken Melesse family

Meklit’s 2014 version of the folk song “Kemekem” — which the singer describes as “a love song for the person with the perfect Afro” — was inspired by a version Muluken made famous decades ago.

“I felt such a link to him,” she said. “And I will be so forever grateful to him.”

Meklit added she will never be able to get enough of Muluken’s singing.

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“It has so much movement and vibrance in it. It’s alive. You don’t know where he’s going to go. You just are kind of on a river following his tone and it’s captivating,” she said. “The whole human experience was contained within that voice.”

Audio and digital story edited by Jennifer Vanasco; audio produced by Isabella Gomez Sarmiento.

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What does rebellious style look like? Enter artist Saturn Risin9

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What does rebellious style look like? Enter artist Saturn Risin9

A bag becomes a different thing entirely when worn by different personalities — similar to how no one perfume smells the same on two different people. To test out this idea, we invited four different artists to style the same bag into their personal look and lifestyle for one day, dreaming up places across L.A. where they would wear it. The bag? The Acne Studios rivet wine box bag from the brand’s spring/summer ’24 collection. It felt like a bag tough enough to withstand a long day in L.A. and lightweight enough to not drag you down.

In the second installment of the series, Saturn Risin9, a singer, performer and DJ, takes the bag to Pirate Studios, where she practices DJ sets ahead of the weekend. With the Acne bag in tow, the multi-hyphenate shows us how their personal style is a reflection of “ambition, being daring, being exciting, and how to bring those things together.”

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a multihyphenate. I’m a performer, a singer, a DJ, I throw events. I have a charity, Rings Alliance, for trans and queer artists. We’re still getting our footing but you’ll be hearing more about that soon.

Describe your personal style.

I’ve always been really rebellious. And my mom says she knew the moment that she was pregnant with me that I was going to only do what I wanted. I think my style reflects that. Even the things that you would think I would care about — like what’s trending, what the standard of fashion or music is — I never really care. If it hits me, I wear it. And if it sounds good to me, I do it, because I can make anything work. I mean that in life as well as in my music and also in my style. I think my self, my work and personal style all reflect someone that works really hard for themselves and by themselves. It’s a reflection of ambition, being daring, being exciting, and how to bring those things together because it is really remarkable to do that in a world that does not champion and welcome that. (I’m blessed to have found a community and a personal world that does.) My style reflects that person, and my effort toward being great and having fun.

Saturn wears a Tommy Hilfiger jacket, Amazon bodysuit and boots from Maya Shoes of Hollywood. Makeup by Saturn Risin9.

Saturn Risin9 wearing the Acne Studios rivet wine box bag at Pirate Studios.

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I think my self, my work and personal style all reflect someone that works really hard for themselves and by themselves.

— Performer, singer and DJ Saturn Risin9

Talk to me about dreaming up an outfit around this Acne Studios bag.

For the last few years I’ve really been into these really small bags that don’t have a lot of space — I love a clutch size. So when I saw the bag I was excited because it was more spacious and had this rectangular shape so I knew that I could fit a lot of things in it, which meant that I had more options to wear things that allowed for a sleek [look]. I don’t have to wear pockets because my purse can hold it all, so I have these thigh-high boots on. I definitely thought about how flexible [the bag] would be for going out or even traveling because I don’t like to travel with a lot. I like to have as much as I can fit in my purse and still be sexy, cute and ready to go.

How does sense of place inform sense of style? How do you travel through L.A. with style in mind?

I’m usually in what I like to call butch-wares. I definitely like to be comfy when I travel through L.A., especially in the daytime — I’m not trying to put on a look. I also don’t want to be bogged down by the idea that dolls [trans women] need to present super feminine or hyper-femme to be able to pass through life. Passability is not even a concern for me. I just try to be as comfortable as possible because I’m doing so much at all times — why would I want to be uncomfortable on top of working as hard as I work? But, there’s nothing more c— than having a fab bag on you. Sweats or not, a fab bag is a fab bag. Like, actually, let me dress more bummy and pull out the Acne bag.

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Saturn Rising for a "Style It Yourself" feature in Image's April 2024 issue. (Bishop Elegino / For The Times)

Producer: Mere Studios
Makeup: Saturn Risin9
Hair: Malcom Marquez

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